Today I ran the Fly With the Eagles Half Marathon--my ninth half marathon and the first half marathon I have run twice. I finished with an unofficial (Garmin) time of 2:07:08. (Official time posted on 2/14: 2:06.53) Here are my race observations from earlier today:
1) Support your local running club and its signature race.
This race is put on by my local running club, River to River Runners. This was the sixth time for the race--the first time the race was held there were 78 finishers. Today there were over 200. Great growth for a small town race.
2) The race itself takes place in the beautiful Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. We had a tiny bit of snow last night, so trees, branches and both the gravel and paved roads in the Refuge had a light coating of snow. I had to watch my footing. It was so cold at the start of the race (20 degrees, but wind chill made it feel like 14). Fortunately I was dressed for the weather with lots and lots of layers. I even had "hot hands" in my gloves, gloves which were then topped by mittens. Mittens always make me feel like a little kid!
3) Since this is a small town race, there's not a lot of "bling," but there was more than last year. Someone must have got money from the local tourism bureau because this year everyone got a finisher's medal, which didn't happen last year. We also got a very warm sweatshirt hoodie and a drawstring bag. What to do with the hoodie and the bag became a problem because Jon (husband and runner support) had already dropped me off. I put the sweatshirt on over my long sleeve wicking shirt and put my zip up jacket over the whole array of layers. I folded up the drawstring bag and put it in my waist belt. I feared for a moment that I'd be too hot, but I'm constitutionally cold. I'm cold in regular clothes. So I looked a little like the Stay-Puf Marshmallow Man in my layers, but I never got too cold.
4) This is the first half that I have done twice. I finished last year in 2:09:58, so this was quite an improvement. One thing that had taken on mythic proportions in my mind was the hill between mile 7 and 8. Last year it seemed so huge. This year I looked at it and thought, "well you're not so big." I even wondered if this was the same hill. Well, of course it was. I've just become a stronger runner. I dealt with the hill and with the wind--it threatened to push me off the course at several points. Winter running is not for the meek, no matter how fast or slow you are.
5) Though I have improved a lot from last year's running of the race, I was shut out of the age group awards (this was my first half in my new age group). I was prepared for that, however. I know, from reading race results, that many of the really fast women in this area are in the 45-50 age group. But what impressed me was that everyone seemed to have gotten faster from last year. Lots of folks I spoke with talked about PRs and minutes shaved off. Since the conditions were not optimal, I can only conclude that the more you run, the faster you get.
6) I had a weird mantra throughout the race. The word "walk" kept going through my head, not as in "I'm so tired that I'm going to walk" but more "this is easy, this is a walk." I would breathe out on that one short syllable---"walk"--and feel calm and centered.
7) The only rough spot was the .1 back to the finish. Last year was warmer, so the area was a muddy slog then. This time, it was rutty, bumpy, uneven terrain. I kept stumbling, but since it's only .1, it was over faster than I knew. This patch would be grass in summer, but in winter's end, it's a crusty little piece full of tire tracks and bunchgrass.
8) I don't have a post-race photo because I thought I'd be slower than last year because of the weather and because I didn't give my self enough credit for the work I'd done in preparation. I hadn't done a long run of 13 in a while, but I've been running consistent 28-30 mile weeks for quite a while. So I told Jon to look for me at around 2:15. He missed me.
9) I'm very happy with my finish time and plan on giving myself more credit for my hard work in the future. Next week I run the BCEMS Half Marathon in Rome, Georgia on the beautiful campus of Berry College. I hope it's warmer there!